All Replies on I want to build things with hand tools

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View Bryan's profile

I want to build things with hand tools

by Bryan
posted 09-06-2011 06:48 PM

26 replies so far

View littleparker's profile


6 posts in 2897 days

#1 posted 09-06-2011 08:17 PM

I suggest you visit Rob Cosman’s site: and
He now has a online hand tood workshop, he is using hand tools to build a candlebox currently followed by these planned projects: hall table, lap desk; hanging cabinet; traveller’s chest; bookcase, cherry table.

Two other handtool woodworkers can be found at:

Best of luck.

View tirebob's profile


134 posts in 2847 days

#2 posted 09-06-2011 08:24 PM

You should read Chris Schwarz’ book, The Anarchists Tool Chest. He goes in detail about what tools are most important to have, then what is nice to have, to be able to accomplish most handtool tasks… Myself, I broke the bank in the beginning and bought a ton of really premium stuff all at once, and while I don’t regret it, I find today I use certain tools a lot, and others not so much, which means I could have gotten away with spending less money and still do all the jobs I do now. Still though, it was a ton of fun buying all those cool tools! lol!

If you are going to buy one plane, the low angle jack plane is an awesome starting point. You can buy a few blades and tackle the widest variety of jobs with that one plane. You can remove stock fast, you can flatten, you can smooth and you can use it for shooting. Just switch blades to match the job you are doing. If you have multiple planes in the budget, a dedicated jointer and smoother are nice. I also really like my shoulder plane and router plane. The next plane I am going to buy is a plow plane. If you plane on doing a lot of boxes, drawers etc, plow planes are great!

A full set of decent chisels are nice, but you don’t need to break the bank to get something functional. You would be better off buying a few common sized good chisels and add more as you need them, rather than a full set of crap ones. Thinking economy, the Narex bevel edged ones are good for cheap, but the new Stanley Sweethearts are probably a little better. If you can hold off, Lee Valley if supposed to unveiling their new premium line of chisels soon, but not sure what the price tag will be on those yet.

Get yourself some decent saws. The Veritas dovetail and carcass saws are awesome, especially for the dollar…

If you are buying handtools with blades, a decent sharpening system is a must! Even the best tools will work like crap if not sharpened properly. There are many different methods, but I prefer waterstones for cost vs quality. There are many who use sandpaper which is cheaper to start, but adds up over time. Decent waterstones are not too much money and can last a long time. A DMT plate is a nice luxury for keeping your stones flat. I like to use the Veritas MKII honing guide while others prefer freehand, but the guide is pretty foolproof and lets you repeat great edges time after time.

You will need a good marking gauge, measuring tools, squares etc. If you plan on doing dovetails the dovetail markers are handy.

There will be many different preferences, but if you stick to the basics you will be fine and can just add tools as you find you need them. There are multiple ways to skin a cat, so even though a certain tool might make a job easier, it isn’t usually the only way. Once you figure out you are doing a certain job all the time, you can consider upgrading to a specialty tool then…

Where are you located? Lee Valley has great tools (their Veritas line is exceptional!), but others love their Lie Neilsen tools, and you can start getting into the boutique manufacturers who specialize in their specific tool types… It never ends! Haha!

View AUBrian's profile


86 posts in 2664 days

#3 posted 09-06-2011 08:26 PM

It would really help to know what kind of work you plan to do…that can make a difference in what tools are recommended. If you’re set on going with New Tools at LV (Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re a phenominal company), then I’d go for the following:

Narex Bevel Edged Chisels – Set of 4 ($41)
Veritas 5 1/4 – $229 (A low angle jack could also be considered here)
Veritas Low Angle Block – $139
Set of 3 Veritas Saws – $159
6” Starrett Double Square – $66

Total – $634

That would cover your basics. Then you need to look more locally for a panel saw (You can probably find a nice Disston on Craigslist or some other site), you’ll also need stones, or a granite surface and sandpaper for sharpening. If you’re going for completely hand tools, you’ll also want to look for a brace and bits, and a router plane.

And that’s just trying to get you a basic set that can do a little of everything. You may want to do more mortise and tenoning, in which case a nice tenon saw and mortise chisels would serve you well. Actually, mortise chisels are always handy…But then you’d also need a mallet. But then you could make it yourself…

And don’t foget some money for lumber…what good are tools if you have nothing to build with?

View AUBrian's profile


86 posts in 2664 days

#4 posted 09-06-2011 08:27 PM

Looks like Bob and I agree…he just beat me by 2 minutes…. ;o)

View Bryan's profile


51 posts in 2850 days

#5 posted 09-06-2011 08:59 PM

U guys are awesome. I live in Fort Valley Ga, Its about 70 miles south of atlanta.

View Brit's profile


7373 posts in 2836 days

#6 posted 09-06-2011 09:45 PM

Hi Bryan – RGTools is doing a great blog at the moment on a hand tool build where he discusses the basic hand tools and their uses. I would encourage you to check it out. Here is the link to Part 1.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2944 days

#7 posted 09-06-2011 11:00 PM

Bryan, it might be worth it to take a drive up here to Atlanta and visit Highland Hardware. They have a very good selection of hand tools that you can take a look at in person before you buy them.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View maljr1980's profile


171 posts in 2449 days

#8 posted 09-07-2011 04:24 AM

we dont know what you have as far as hand tools to start, youre going to need a couple of hammers and mallets, deadblow, some measuring devices and squares, clamps, pliers, screwdrivers, maybe some nail sets, chisels, a couple planes, maybe a japsaw or two, sharpening supplies, maybe some miter clamps and pinch dogs, maybe some dowel centers, kreg jig, countersinks. thats just to name a few of the things in my tool chest at work

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2919 days

#9 posted 09-07-2011 05:10 AM

Once you enter the doors at Lee Valley, you may never come out… :)

Great advice above, welcome to the dark side!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4090 days

#10 posted 09-07-2011 06:20 AM

I would also recommend reading the New Traditional woodworker by Jim Tolpin. Great advise on building furnature with hand tools, tool selection and projects.

I would get informed before jumping into a bunch of expensive tools. Vintage tools can save you a lot of money if you know what your looking for and can resist the urge to collect everything in sight.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4208 posts in 2554 days

#11 posted 09-07-2011 06:33 AM

It seems the more I buy hand tools and use them, the more I do not use the big stuff.
I guess I am falling in love doing woodworking by hand.

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

140 posts in 3015 days

#12 posted 09-07-2011 08:07 AM

I agree on the Jim Tolpin book. Very down to earth. Overall, I would recommend buying only what you need for a project. Buy too much and you may find yourself with tools you rarely use, not to mention overwhelmed with to much stuff.

Along with using the tool, you need to learn how to adjust and sharpen it. I’m not sure how to go about this part as I’ld recommend two books that people have really liked. Problem is, I’m the publisher of them! So, I’ll send you an email off-forum.

Don’t get sucked into the whole dollar game of buying tools. A $200 plane won’t make you a better craftsman, it will just make your wallet lighter. Learning the how’s and why’s along with technique is the best place to start.


-- Gary Roberts,

View parkerdude's profile


182 posts in 3445 days

#13 posted 09-08-2011 12:12 AM

I vote with Gary,

Lots of woodworkers advocate high quality tools, that command high prices. There are legions of hand-tool guys that can’t cut a straight line. Remember “you can’t buy a game”.

Take your time, read a lot, consider some lightly USED tools. Find someone that will help you figure out which ones.

After looking for a while I bought a used Stanley #5, 2 years ago, that was almost as nice as the Record #4 that I bought new 25 years ago. Come to think of it it was actually slightly cheaper too.

Try a couple of small projects, let them guide your search.

Good Luck!


-- dust control

View Dunelm's profile


32 posts in 2480 days

#14 posted 09-08-2011 12:46 AM

Many years ago I purchased a relatively good quality adjustable mitre box and accompanying 26 inch mitre saw. I don’t know if they’re still available but it would be near the top of my list for handtools if you want to make accurate crosscuts without any type of power saw.

-- Bruce -- Canada

View tirebob's profile


134 posts in 2847 days

#15 posted 09-08-2011 03:02 AM

While I agree that great hand tools will not make a great woodworker, I believe you should have at least one really premium tool (or at least experience it) so you will know how a tool is supposed to perform, so then when you are buying vintage tools etc, you will know where you are at versus where you need to be. If you don’t know something is performing like crap, you might tend to blame yourself for things that are related to the tuning of the tool, and if you don’t know what good is, you won’t know what bad is either. This leads to frustration and frustration leads to giving up. Don’t be scared to buy premium tools if they fall within your budgets. There is nothing wrong with that at all, but if your budget is a little tighter, don’t be scared of quality vintage stuff. Just know what you are buying and how it should perform…

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

140 posts in 3015 days

#16 posted 09-08-2011 03:06 AM

Well, buy yourself a nice old Stanley #4 and add a Hock iron. It’s the iron that matters. Learn how to adjust the plane and go make some shavings.

-- Gary Roberts,

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2647 days

#17 posted 09-09-2011 03:11 PM

$1000 Hmm? It’s good that you mention what you want to build since that already puts you ahead of the curve, I see a lot of people just start buying kits without thinking about what they need. Whatever tools you get, you will need a way to sharpen them though so make a budget for that.

I am running late for work. But I will take my Lee Valley catalog with me and brainstorm on my lunch break.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2647 days

#18 posted 09-09-2011 09:05 PM

Ok So I have played around a bit. This is by no mean a complete list but it is a solid set to build on.. you need some way to break down stock for instance…I reccomend finding an old Disston and sharpening it.

Assuming we are buying all new from the lee valley catalog:

Jack plane and an extra blade (one with a heavy camber for roughing and one kept straight…a 3rd blade with a minor camber would be nice but was not quite in the budget) $265.50
Plow plane with all the blades (this is a very solid joinery plane that speeds up a lot of things) $275
Dovetail saw $65
Hirsch bench Chisel set (or you can go narex and save some money) $129
Marking guage (wheel style) 39.50
6” starrett combo square $69.50
Card scraper $9.50
Burnisher $7.50
1000 grit water stone $27.40
8000 grit water stone $60.50
vise style (eclipse) honin guide $10.90
Saftey glass (to attach sandpaper for flattening stones and grinding) $13.50

$972.80 which gives you some money left over for shipping and the sandpaper. There are other routes you could go though.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

140 posts in 3015 days

#19 posted 09-09-2011 09:41 PM

or, contact Sandy Moss at Sydnas Sloot and see what he has for you. Honest and forthright, I’ve known Sandy for years. He won’t sell you what you don’t need if you’re looking for user tools. There are many other online tool dealers to talk to if you are looking for other options.

Ron Hock makes blades and will supply them ready to go to work. Another honest guy.

Some things you might want to buy new but many can be bought old and they’re just as good if not better. Plus, any time you spend prepping a tool for work is time spent learning just how it works.

-- Gary Roberts,

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2647 days

#20 posted 09-10-2011 01:47 AM

I second that. A mixed new used tools kit would be a better way to go…saws are one really good example of this. They just don’t seem to care that you are going to be holding the thing for a while and don’t spend nearly enough time on shaping the handles to be comfortable.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3789 days

#21 posted 09-10-2011 01:49 PM

Just some food for thought, but if this were me, I’d probably buy a set of the Narex chisels from Lee Valley, pick a sharpening system and go with that (and it doesn’t particularly matter. Folks have gotten good results from all of them), get a nice hunk of granite and some spray adhesive, then hit eBay. There are some awesome old tools and if you get users versus collectors pieces, you can get them for much less than new. For example, my jointer plane would cost several hundred dollars new. I paid $40 for it.

The hunk of granite and spray adhesive is to attach sandpaper to the granite and lap the soles of the planes. That is going to be key for those tools.

As for saws, I picked up a crosscut and a rip saw for $10. These were vintage, good quality saws. I picked up back saws left and right for less than $30 each and restored them. There are tons of tutorials on the internet for restoring saws. However, if you want new on the back saws, the Veritas dovetail and carcass saws are tough to beat.

However, there’s the simpler approach and that’s just to pick a project and buy the tools you need for that project. I did it the “buy a set to do most things first” mentality and by the time I had all the tools I needed, there wasn’t a lot left for wood. Had I gone and bought what I needed for a project, I’d probably already have some nicer stuff sitting around my house and wouldn’t have left the craft in frustration a couple of years back.

Obviously though, this is just one guy’s opinion. Neither more correct nor incorrect than anyone else’s, and worth every penny you paid for it ;)

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View willy66's profile


44 posts in 2595 days

#22 posted 09-23-2011 06:45 PM

Before starting your endless journey, I would recommend reading: “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” by Christopher Schwartz. Its a good read, but he outlines in this book, the stripped down list of tools that you NEED for woodworking. He is not to pushy, but explains what he thinks is necessary, and leaves room (and makes suggestions) for each individual to expand as they see fit.

I wish I read this book before I bought a few things, but its part of the fun. There are some reviews of the book on this website in the review section. Check them out, and check the book out. Its worth every penny.

-- -Willy, White Plains, NY

View pariswoodworking's profile


386 posts in 2478 days

#23 posted 09-23-2011 07:36 PM

If you don’t mind doing a little restoration/tuning, you could try getting antique hand tools off ebay. That $1000 would probably go a lot farther. Many of those antiques work just as well if not better than the new ones. Just my .02

-- Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2770 days

#24 posted 09-23-2011 08:18 PM

Flea markets and estate sales can have really nice buys as well. I have also purchased some very nice tools from coworkers that were selling “old junk” that was rusty and looked like crap. Cleaned up nicely.

Just a word of advice, DO NOT EVER show a tool that you bought from a co-worker that you have cleaned up and fixed. They get really pissed and want it back – for the same price you paid them for it. Learned this the hard way.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

140 posts in 3015 days

#25 posted 09-23-2011 10:06 PM

I’m going to through fat on the fire. Don’t read a book to figure out what tools you need. Don’t go out and spend a grand on a bunch of tools before you learn some hand tool woodworking. You’ll find yourself not using lots of those tools. Pick out an easy project to start with, something in a basic form and with an easy to work wood and get the tools you need for it. Learn how to adjust and sharpen those tools, how to use them and progress from there.

If you want to read a book, any book, buy the book to enjoy yourself and learn about woodworking but not to learn everything all at once cause you’ll be overwhelmed. There is no one size fits all.

Example: Dovetail saws – small, fine toothed dovetail saws are ok if you are working with thin stock. If your stock is fairly thick, you really don’t need a small saw. A 8 or 10 inch tenon saw, depending on your arm length and sawing style, will do the trick. It’s how many teeth per inch and how they are sharpened that’s more important. Check in with someone who knows saws on how to get it sharpened for the purpose and make your life easier.

Me, I have achy elbows. I don’t use a long throw when sawing. I prefer a shorter tenon saw so an 8 inch blade is fine for me.

-- Gary Roberts,

View Sylvain's profile


706 posts in 2492 days

#26 posted 09-24-2011 04:33 PM

Don’t forget the obvious.
Space and workbench.
I have no shop so I have to work in the garden. I have worked also in the entrance hall. The nice thing about handtool is it does not BLOW dust evrywhere. I am thinking to convert the old coal cellar (my house is from 1896); about 3ft by 6ft. Quite small but better than nothing. It is full of junk and coal dust for the time being.
There are plenty of nice worbenches here on lumberjock. I have dreamed to build one but I think I will start with a kitchen counter which I already own and which sits unused in the same cellar. Untill now I have used the picnic bench outside or a workmate.

Don’t forget a lot of good clamps.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

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